Intro to Permaculture Workshop

August 19, 2014

Sierra Permaculture Design California USAWant to get your feet wet with Permaculture? I’ll be teaching the following workshop at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply on September 13th, 2014.

Intro to Permaculture at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
with Paul Racko

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 – 9:30am – 11:30am

Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is a harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. We will cover the design principles of permaculture and how to apply these sustainable practices. No matter if you live in an urban apartment, suburban tract home, or on a multi-acre ranch, permaculture will help you live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Paul Racko is certified permaculture designer and offers consulting, design, project management & training though his firm Sierra Permaculture Design (

Pre-registration & pre-payment is requested. Call Peaceful Valley’s store to register at 530-272-4769 x106. Cash or check payments only, no credit cards.

To pre-pay, please mail a check made out to Paul Racko to
Peaceful Valley, Attn: Workshops, P.O. Box 2209, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Workshop Location:
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
125 Clydesdale Court, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Map and Directions:

Categories: company, courses, events, news.

Ham Radio at the 2012 Permaculture Convergence

September 25, 2012

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been chosen to present a workshop and demonstration on Amateur Radio at the 2012 Northern California Permaculture Convergence in Castro Valley, CA on October 12-14.

My workshop is called ‘Building Communications Resilience with Amateur Radio’ and its focus will be on how and why ham radio should be incorporated into permaculture systems everywhere. During the course of the weekend, I will also be operating my station to demonstrate phone (voice) and digital (data) modes on both VHF (2 meters) and HF (40 meters). The station will give Convergence attendees a hands-on opportunity to work the airwaves for the purposes of demonstrating amateur radio’s diverse capabilities for one-to-one and one-to-many voice and data (including chat and email!) communication. If the propagation characteristics of the site allow it (the M.A. Center is located at the bottom of a canyon), I will be running a VHF packet station on 145.050 FM to show how text-based messages & data can be sent, stored, forwarded and retrieved via Packet Bulletin Board Systems (PBBS) as well as demonstrate the Winlink 2000 system for the delivery & retrieval of email via IP the world over! On HF, I’ll be running 100 watts on the 40 meter band using a horizontal dipole antenna optimized for NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) which allows for regional communications within a 30 to 400 mile radius. For updates on my station’s operating times and frequencies, please see my page at

For more information on the 2012 Northern California Permaculture Convergence, please visit their website at

Categories: amateur_radio, company, events, news.

Save Water, Save Money: How to be Water Wise in your Home and Garden

March 8, 2012

Nevada City’s new WaterWise Program presents free Public Workshop and Fixture Give-aways  NC_Water_Wise_logo

Nevada City has recently initiated its WaterWise program to help residents save money on their water bills by using water more efficiently.  As part of the public launch of the program, WaterWise will be holding a free public workshop on water efficiency titled, “Save Water, Save Money: How to be Water Wise in your Home and Garden.”  Many local home and gardening experts will be speaking at the event, and there will be a raffle of a Dual-flush toilet donated by Sierra Plumbing Supply, an irrigation “smart-controller’ donated by Weiss Landscaping, and a gift basket donated by Rare Earth Landscape Materials.  In addition to these raffle items, Nevada City will be giving away one of the latest designs in low-flow showerheads.  Although the raffle items and give-aways are only available to Nevada City water utility customers, the program itself is open to the general public, and everyone is invited to attend.  Light refreshments will be available.  The program happens Saturday, March 17th, from 10am to 1pm, at Seaman’s Lodge, in Pioneer Park.

Save Water, Save Money: How to be Water Wise in your Home and Garden

Speakers and topics:

Zeno Acton with Acton Arboriculture – The steps and value of an irrigation audit.

Adam Weiss/Brian Coalson with Weiss Landscaping – Landscape maintenance strategies, irrigation improvements and adjustments that conserve

Karin Kaufman, Landscape Architect: Reducing or removing lawn, and what to put in its place

John Whalin, from Sierra Plumbing Supply: Water efficient fixtures inside the home

Lyn Muth, Master Gardener at A to Z nursery: Using water wise plants in the landscape

Paul Racko, Sierra Permaculture Design:  harvesting and reusing water in the landscape with swales, ponds & greywater

Following new state guidelines which mandate all California water suppliers to use metered billing and to reduce per capita water use, Nevada City installed new water meters and switched to metered billing in 2011.  As often happens when switching to metered billing, many residents’ water bill increased dramatically.  The Nevada City council initiated the WaterWise program to help residents bring those bills back down and under control.  The program also aims to guide residents towards the state mandated goal of 20% lower water use by the year 2020.  WaterWise may also help the city during the peak use summer months when it has to buy additional water from NID, as well as stave off spending millions of dollars on infrastructure and water treatment plant renovations.

Many area residents have wondered at the reasoning behind a water efficiency program when Nevada City is located so close to the headwaters of a large watershed and water seems so abundant.  The bigger picture behind the need for water conservation is that California has a serious water problem.  There has been a warming trend in California for decades which is predicted to continue.  This warming trend is not only melting away millennia-old glaciers in the Sierra, it’s causing earlier snow melt and run-off, and faster evaporation rates.  Faster evaporation rates mean more water is required to irrigate crops and landscape.  Compounding this problem is the fact that California is expected to continue growing in population by many millions in the coming years.  Much of this population growth is expected to happen in areas that are already experiencing severe water shortages and already rely on reclaimed water for irrigation.  In simple terms all of this means that California’s water supply is decreasing at the very same time that its water demand is growing.    Facing a serious failure of the water supply system in the not too distant future, California instituted Senate Bill SB7.7 in 2009, which calls for more efficient water use by all Californians, with a reduction of 10% by 2015, and 20% by 2020.  Thankfully there are many new technologies and practices available to the public to help them reduce water use without sacrificing comfort or utility.  Some of the new low-flow fixtures not only use less water, they actually perform better than previous higher flow models.  For instance, the new generation of high efficiency sprinkler heads use up to 30% less water, while simultaneously providing better soil infiltration than previous designs.  The goal of the WaterWise program is to inform residents about newly emerging water-saving technologies while also promoting practical and time-tested water wise practices, such as adding mulch to the garden, and shutting off the faucet while brushing our teeth.

WaterWise Nevada City coordinators Katie Merrill and Ellis Garvin may be contacted directly at (530) 265-2496, ext. 121.  Or by email at:

Categories: events, news.

Bitcoins & LENnies Now Accepted!

June 6, 2011

Good news for all those who support alternatives to the rapidly devaluating US Dollar! Sierra Permaculture Design now accepts Bitcoins and LENnies in exchange for services.

As the Federal Reserve Bank (it is neither!) continues to crank out worthless paper fiat currency that is backed by absolutely nothing, now is the time to adopt sustainable alternatives to our National Funny Money. Don’t be left holding worthless paper. Sign up with LEN, Bitcoin or a local money alternative of your choice before The FED and it’s FRNs go up in smoke!

Together we can build sustainable alternatives!



Categories: company, news.

Introduction to Permaculture class

May 11, 2010

Once again, I will be teaching my popular ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ class at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. Sign up now as space is limited.

Introduction to Permaculture
with Paul Racko

May 22, 2010
9:30am – 11:30am
at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in Grass Valley, CA

Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is a harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. In this two-hour class, we will cover the major design principles of permaculture and provide advice on how to apply these sustainable practices to the home landscape. No matter if you live in an urban apartment, suburban tract home, or on a multi-acre ranch, permaculture will help you live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Early registration and prepayment is required one week prior to class.
Please pay with cash or make checks made payable to ‘Paul Racko’.
Go to Peaceful Valley Ferm Supply at 125 Clydesdale Court in Grass Valley to sign up, or call (530)272-4769 ext. 116.

Paul Racko has been studying and applying permaculture principles for over a decade. He is a certified permaculture designer and offers consulting services though his firm Sierra Permaculture Design.

Categories: courses, news.

Obama Cops to Peak Oil Reality

April 1, 2010

Obama Administration Cops to Likelihood of Looming Global Oil Shortage: Post Carbon Institute Requests Transparency of Energy Policy

by Tod Brilliant

In an exclusive interview published March 25 in Le Monde, Glen Sweetnam, the Obama administration’s official expert on the oil market, confirmed nearly every element of the “Peak Oil” scenario that many analysts both in and outside the oil industry have warned of for years:

• A decline of world oil production could begin soon—perhaps next year, and
• Only extraordinary levels of investment by the oil industry can maintain current rates of production much longer.

After decades of ignoring the “Peak Oil” theory that predicts global oil production will peak and then rapidly decline, Sweetnam’s admission marks a profound shift in the U.S. government’s position on energy depletion.

“I understand how difficult it must be for officials of the Department of Energy to acknowledge that the lifeblood of the industrial economy–cheap oil–is disappearing faster than they had previously forecast,” says Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow at Post Carbon Institute. “But the American People deserve the truth.”

Semantics Won’t Save Us
While Sweetnam and the Obama Administration prefer to use the term “undulating plateau” to “peak,” the terms are nearly identical. Lauren Mayne, responsible for liquid fuel prospects at the Department of Energy notes: “Once maximum world oil production is reached, that level will be approximately maintained for several years thereafter, creating an undulating plateau. After this plateau period, production will experience a decline.”

“Approximately.” “Several years.” In other words, the Obama Administration is predicting declining oil flow rates in the near future. Also known as peak oil. With 2005 now standing as the record year for total world crude production, we are already five years into the “undulating plateau” forecast by the DoE. Regardless of the shape of the mountaintop–years-long plateau or sharp peak–there is wide consensus that we are about to head down the steep opposite slope.

Asher Miller, Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute, calls on the Obama Administration and the DoE to be honest with the U.S. citizenry about pending oil shortages and what it could mean to our economy and way of life. “Since the DoE is as concerned, apparently, as we are about the implications of energy constraints, perhaps the Department could allocate just 1% of the money saved by terminating fossil fuel subsidies to conduct a thorough and timely study of the impacts of high oil prices and shortages, and what could be done to mitigate that impact. The likelihood is that we will never again see an increase in the availability of cheap oil. If we are honest about this, we would immediately shift our investments from highway expansion to public transit and rail.”

A Call for Honesty
Post Carbon Institute hereby issues a formal call for the U.S. Department of Energy to come forward with all possible clarity and directness on where the world stands with regard to future oil supplies. The American people have already paid for this information through their taxes and they will bear the brunt of higher oil prices if these are indeed in the offing.

We also call for urgent updated studies on (1) what would be the economic impacts of high oil prices and shortages, and (2) what could be done mitigate those impacts. Independent analyses have so far suggested that building public transit and rail, rather than more highways, would give the nation more and better options in the event of a permanent decline in world oil production; however, that conclusion will carry far more weight if it bears the imprimatur of the DoE. If, as previous studies suggest, world oil production is at or close to its peak and the economic impacts will be severe, then it is incumbent upon government at all levels to begin preparations.
The Le Monde article follows upon three recent developments prominently reported in foreign news services:

• On February 10, the UK Industry Task Force on Peak Oil and Energy Security, headed by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines among other prominent industrialists, issued a report, “The Oil Crunch: A wake-up call for the UK economy,” which forecast that “oil shortages, insecurity of supply and price volatility will destabilise economic, political, and social activity potentially by 2015.”

• On March 23, the British government convened a closed-door meeting between energy minister Lord Hunt and the British business leaders responsible for the headline-grabbing report.

• On March 22, the British Government’s former chief scientist, Sir David King, reported that the world’s oil reserves have been exaggerated by up to a third, and warned of shortages and price spikes within years. A peer reviewed paper by Dr. King and others, soon to be published in Energy Policy, supports the conclusion that world oil production may soon go into decline, followed by shortages and price spikes.

Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, and environmental crises that define the 21st century. PCI envisions a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

Tel: +1.707.823.8700 • Fax: +1.866.797.5820


Categories: news.


IEA Economist: ‘Era Of Cheap Energy Is Over’

March 10, 2010

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The chief economist of the International Energy Agency said predicted Tuesday that the “era of cheap energy is over,” with oil supply unlikely to keep up with demand.

Fatih Birol told the National Association for Business Economics that China will be the main driver of global oil demand, which he sees increasing by about 1.5 million barrels a day this year.

Birol said he has “serious worries” about whether future supply can meet demand.


This is huge news, especially to those who have been claiming over the past decade that the concept of Peak Oil is a “hoax”. Each year, the production data and the spot price of oil confirms that yes indeed, Peak Oil is real and it is here now. This has major implications for the entire global economy because so much of the food, medical, transport, travel and manufacturing sectors of the economy are so dependent on fossil fuels.

The good news is that there is still some time to prepare. Invest in a permaculture system for your home today.

To get started, please call Paul Racko of Sierra Permaculture Design at (530)292-3031 or 613-4181.

Permaculture is the wisest investment decision you can make. Call today.

Categories: news.

Tags: , ,

Caution: Monsanto Frankenseeds on the loose!

January 12, 2010

Many thanks to local grower Ray Diggins of Grizzly Hill Organic Farm & Nursery who passed this info on from a discussion group he belongs to.

As we all know, megacorporations such as Monsanto and Bayer have for some time now been attempting to wrap their greedy tentacles around life itself. Now they are buying up small and regional seed companies so that they can inseminate these formerly independent seed lines with their own GMO Frankenseeds. Their ultimate goal is to strip humanity of our natural, open-source heritage so that they can claim ownership of all plant life and charge a premium price to anyone who wishes to grow or reproduce the plants that they control — even crops that are unintentionally cross-pollinated!

This is pure evil and must be stopped — so what we must do is make our money do the talking!

Here is a bit of background on the main players and a list of the seed companies that are dealing Frankenseeds so that you can spend your money wisely.

PLEASE NOTE: As of 2016, much of this information is now outdated. I have made edits to Ray’s post to indicate the current state of affairs regarding many of these companies to the best of my ability. The good news is that many of them heard your protesting in the marketplace and have signed on to the ‘Safe Seed Pledge‘!

January 12, 2010

From: Ray Diggins


Is Monsanto determined to own all the seed in the world?

Monsanto began aggressively moving into the vegetable seed arena with the $1.4 billion purchase in 2005 of California-based Seminis, which gave Monsanto control over more than 30 percent of the North American vegetable seed market, as well as more than 20 percent of the world’s tomato seed market and more than 30 percent of the global hot pepper seed market.

Last year, Monsanto formed the International Seed Group Inc (ISG) as a holding company for the company’s growing investments in regional vegetable and fruit seed businesses.

Unlike the Seminis business, which is primarily directed at the open-field vegetable market, the bulk of Monsanto owned De Ruiter’s business is for greenhouse growers, known as the “protected culture market,” which Monsanto said is the fastest-growing area of the vegetable seed industry today.

Monsanto’s vegetable seed business will now include De Ruiter Seeds, the “protected-culture” vegetable seed market; Seminis, the open-field vegetable seed market; and the International Seed Group, which will serve the regional seed businesses.”

Monsanto is not the only chemical company buying up small seed companies. Syngenta and Bayer are also buying up regional seed companies. In the corn seed business it is hard to buy seed that is not owned by Monsanto, Syngenta or Dow.

Here is an interesting post on Seed companies supplied by Monsanto. If you think it is relevant please pass it on to the growing food and justice community

All of these seed companies are owned by Monsanto or buy seed from Seminis or other seed companies, which are owned by Monsanto.

* Territorial Seeds (I have contacted Territorial and they are sending a list of seeds they buy from Seminis) [Ed. – see their response below…]
* Totally Tomato [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Vermont Bean Seed Co.[Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Burpee [Ed. – see Burpee owner George Ball’s response below…]
* Cook’s Garden [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Johnny’s Seeds [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’. See also Johnny’s response below…]
* Earl May Seed
* Gardens Alive
* Lindenberg Seeds
* Mountain Valley Seed [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’. See Mountain Valley’s response below…]
* Park Seed
* T&T Seeds
* Tomato Growers Supply
* Willhite Seed Co.
* Nichol’s [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Rupp
* Osborne [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Snow
* Stokes
* Jungs [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* R.H. Shumway [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* The Vermont Bean Seed Company [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Seeds for the World
* Seymour’s Selected Seeds
* HPS [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Roots and Rhizomes [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Spring Hill Nurseries
* Breck’s Bulbs
* Audubon Workshop
* Flower of the Month Club
* Wayside Gardens
* Park Bulbs
* Park’s Countryside Garden

Recently on a gardening forum in which I participate, a list of various seed companies now owned by or supplied by Monsanto was posted. This is relevant because or Monsanto’s commitment to GMO’s, continued efforts to control the world seeds, and the resultant numerous lawsuits as a result of their effort to control the market by placing genetic markers in seeds which Monsanto “owns” I was so shocked to discover Johnny’s and Territorial Seeds on the list that I immediately wrote to them to ask if it was true…

JOHNNY’S: Response: ” We have no affiliation with Monsanto. I would kindly ask you to read about “Who owns Johnny’s Selected Seeds” on our website. For more insight on this subject, please visit the following link: However they did not mention Seminis or other any other Monsanto affiliate.

TERRITORIAL’S Response: While Territorial continues to be owned privately, by Tom & Julie Johns, HOWEVER? -one of their seed suppliers, Seminis, is in fact owned by Monsanto. Over the course of my correspondence with staff from Territorial, they provided me with a list of the seeds currently purchased by Seminis, which I have attached. And I was told that the owners are ‘considering’ whether or not to continue using Seminis as a vendor. Attached at the bottom of this email is a list of products sold by Territorial from Seminis..

The following is a list of the current varieties of seed that Territorial admits “purchasing from” Seminis (Monsanto) :

BNO28 Romano Gold
ML463 Ambrosia
BN042 Liana
OK533 Cajun Delight
BN045 Etna
ON542 Mercury
BN059 Helda
ON544 First Edition
BR089 Small Miracle
ON558 Super Star
BR091 Packman
ON559 Candy
BR104 Early Dividend
PL643 Hamburg
BS121 Vancouver
PP663 Northstar
CF170 Early Dawn SG
PP673 Holy Mole
CF173 Fremont
PP674 Gypsy
CF188 Cheddar
PP679 Mulato Isleno
CN203 Seneca Horizon
PP684 Senorita
CN207 Passion
PU722 Snackjack
CN235 Obsession
PU727 Wyatt’s Wonder
CR266 Thumbelina
SP775 Correnta
CU294 Pearl
SP783 Oriental Giant
CU295 Cool Breeze
SQ792 Butterstick
CU302 Orient Express
SQ797 Gold Rush
CU305 Glacier
SQ798 Portofino
CU312 Babylon
SQ804 Sungreen
EG325 Dusky
SQ825 Early Butternut
EG332 Fairy Tale
SQ827 Ambercup
EG333 Twinkle
TM870 Celebrity
EG334 Hansel
TM871 Big Beef
LT387 Esmeralda
TM896 Viva Italia
LT388 Simpson Elite
TM914 Greenhouse 761
LT400 Summertime
TM924 Super Marzano
ML456 Fastbreak
TM938 Window Box Roma
ML458 Pulsar
WA989 Yellow Doll
ML459 Earlidew

I’m sending this information out in the hopes that you’ll consider writing to Territorial Seed – – to request they terminate their relationship with Seminis, as well as expressing support for them as a company you’d continue to buy seeds from in the future. I can’t express enough how important it is for those of us who are dedicated to food security, and the ongoing availability of good, local, organic produce, to do whatever we can to prevent Monsanto from colonizing our primary sources of seed.

(End of Ray’s post)

Fedco is one of the companies that are fighting to stay independent of corporate takeover – check out their website dedicated to the subject:

July 6, 2016 UPDATES:

Kaitlin Jones of Mountain Valley Seeds contacted me to say that they have taken the ‘Safe Seed Pledge‘. As a result, we’ve scratched them off the list. Way to go, Mountain Valley!

In this blog post by Burpee owner George Ball, he clarifies that Burpees does buy seed from Monsanto, but that they do not sell it. He also makes clear that they are not owned by Monsanto in any way.

Territorial Seed has also signed the ‘Seed Pledge’:

The Council for Responsible Genetic published this list of companies who have signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’.

Categories: news.

Tags: , , , ,

Graywater systems now legal in California

January 8, 2010

Good news! Simple and effective home greywater systems have been approved by the California Plumbing Code. Here’s a snippet of the law:

1603A.1.1 Clothes Washer System and/or Single Fixture System. A clothes washer system and/or a single fixture system in compliance with all of the following is exempt from the construction permit specified in Section 108.4.1 and may be installed or altered without a construction permit:


1. If required, notification has been provided to the Enforcing Agency regarding the proposed location and installation of a graywater irrigation or disposal system.


Note: A city, county, or city and county or other local government may, after a public hearing and enactment of an ordinance or resolution, further restrict or prohibit the use of graywater systems. For additional information, see Health and Safety Code Section 18941.7.

2. The design shall allow the user to direct the flow to the irrigation or disposal field or the building sewer. The direction control of the graywater shall be clearly labeled and readily accessible to the user.

3. The installation, change, alteration or repair of the system does not include a potable water connection or a pump and does not affect other building, plumbing, electrical or mechanical components including structural features, egress, fire-life safety, sanitation, potable water supply piping or accessibility.

4. The graywater shall be contained on the site where it is generated.

5. Graywater shall be directed to and contained within an irrigation or disposal field.

6. Ponding or runoff is prohibited and shall be considered a nuisance.

7. Graywater may be released above the ground surface provided at least two (2) inches (51 mm) of mulch, rock, or soil, or a solid shield covers the release point. Other methods which provide equivalent separation are also acceptable.

8. Graywater systems shall be designed to minimize contact with humans and domestic pets.

9. Water used to wash diapers or similarly soiled or infectious garments shall not be used and shall be diverted to the building sewer.

10. Graywater shall not contain hazardous chemicals derived from activities such as cleaning car parts, washing greasy or oily rags, or disposing of waste solutions from home photo labs or similar hobbyist or home occupational activities.

11. Exemption from construction permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any graywater system to be installed in a manner that violates other provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances of the Enforcing Agency.

12. An operation and maintenance manual shall be provided. Directions shall indicate the manual is to remain with the building throughout the life of the system and indicate that upon change of ownership or occupancy, the new owner or tenant shall be notified the structure contains a graywater system.

California Plumbing Code – Graywater Systems (Title 24, Part 5, Chapter 16A, Part I)

Categories: news.

Tags: ,

Sierra Permaculture Design

Permaculture design and consulting services in Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City, and North San Juan, California. Also serving Nevada County, Placer County, Sierra County, and Yuba County, California CA.

Web Design and Hosting by SierraHosts

<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script><noscript><img src="" alt="" /></noscript>